When I first arrived in Cambridge and MIT, I loved how easy it was to make new friends and connections. Every day was an exciting adventure to discover all the fantastic opportunities on campus. I was thrilled to feel MIT people’s passion for research, engineering and taking actions. I found a dedicated community which is eager to do impactful projects and change the world positively. Moreover, the diversity of the people I met was blissful. I made friends with whom I play soccer and squash, go to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, birdwatch, enjoy a Boston afternoon walk, go on weekend trips, cook, read and many other activities!
I first lived in a graduate residence on campus. I loved my life there: very easy to meet new people, wonderful roommates, many events organized, including coffee hours, weekly brunches, night parties, Celtics or Red Sox trips, apple picking,... I then moved to Boston during the pandemic and enjoyed the experience as much, although differently. As a nature lover and bird watcher, I particularly appreciated the proximity to many parks and wild areas accessible by less than 20 minutes of bike. I find Boston one of my favorite cities in the US, if not the most. The incredible college student body around makes it even more exceptional; you feel the friendly and energetic spirit all around.
On top of this, being a student at the Operations Research Center is a fantastic chance. We are a warm family, helping each other and often collaborating actively and sharing our knowledge. I was initially admitted as a Master's student and decided to pursue the Ph.D., a process that went smoothly. After seeing how much I enjoyed my life in Boston and my everyday activities, I was glad I could make this choice.
At the ORC, as an Informs Officer, I organized several social events for our department and we accommodated the pandemic situation with fun and welcoming virtual activities. To facilitate the integration of new students with the remote context, we also innovated a lot and made sure everyone had a chance to connect and build new friendships.
On the other hand, the research I lead explores extremely diverse topics covering many of my interests. I build my projects around all my passions, including, for example, Healthcare, Computer Vision, Wildlife Monitoring, Weather forecasting, and Robust and Interpretable Deep Learning.
I must emphasize, like others, the importance of choosing the right advisor for you. Fortunately, the Open House is a privileged moment to get to know the different Professors and ask for feedback from the current students. You can also reach out to us at any time; we are always happy to share our experience!
In conclusion, in Boston, MIT, and the ORC, you will find an amazing environment to make lifelong friends, build the career of your dreams, and make impactful research!
I chose to do a PhD at MIT’s OR Center because of its collaborative nature, focus on performing world-class research, and the vibrant tight-knit student community. After nearly three years (as of writing this) at the ORC, I can unequivocally say that choosing MIT was the right decision for me. MIT offers everything necessary to obtain a high-quality PhD, from world-class faculty who are genuinely interested to hear about your research, to friendly other students who are willing to help you debug a proof, go for a hike in the White mountains, or just catch up while grabbing coffee. Ultimately, for me the biggest selling point of the ORC is the strength of the student body. For instance, there have been many occasions where I have Googled a very obscure Julia issue only to find that it was resolved on GitHub/StackExchange by a fellow ORC student.
Having moved to Boston from the other side of the world, I have also found settling into Cambridge to be much easier than I originally anticipated. You can get to essentially anywhere in Cambridge/Boston by either taking a 15-minute bike ride or jumping on the Red Line. Additionally, the Charles river offers picturesque running (especially in Fall), and New Hampshire’s White Mountains are only a couple of hours drive away and very accessible for a weekend hike. The winter also isn’t as long as you might think-especially if you take something like running, rock-climbing or skiing up to get you active and outside.
Finally, as a prospective student, picking your advisor is perhaps the most important decision which you make during your PhD. For this reason, I strongly recommend attending the open house and meeting potential advisors. The open house allows you to get an idea of which advisor best suits you, in terms of both personality fit and mutual research interests (of the two, personality fit is at least as important as overlapping research interests). In this regard, a great way to figure out whether you and a potential advisor can work productively together is to talk to several of their current students in an informal setting at the open house. I’ll also add that it’s ok to not know precisely what you want to work on when you first start your PhD. In fact, most students' research interests evolve as they garner more knowledge and mature as scientists.
Unlike many others here, I was initially unsure about pursuing a PhD altogether. I was worried about competing in an environment where everyone is academically brilliant, and the pressure that could result from it. However after 3 years here, I am happy to say that all of my doubts have been proven completely wrong. The ORC is a tight-knit and extremely friendly community where everyone genuinely tries to help out one another. Collaboration between students are frequent, and given the interdisciplinary nature of ORC, you will constantly hear new ideas from vastly different fields (and go to classes in unrelated departments!). The advisors and the directors genuinely look out for the students and have our best interests in mind. I couldn’t imagine being happier elsewhere.
The main advice I have for you, if you are thinking about ORC, is to choose your advisor carefully. Being an interdisciplinary program means that the range of advisors are wide, and there might be many that match to your interests. Since your advisor is someone you would be in constant contact for the next few years, academic alignment is not sufficient for the best outcome. I strongly suggest you to reach out to former students and current students at the ORC to understand better the personality and the philosophy of each advisor to see if you match.
As for Boston, growing up in many different cities around the world, Boston is definitely one of the friendliest cities to live in as an international member. The large student population cultivates many unique and exciting communities, and the city itself also has a lot to offer, from historical buildings to music concerts and theatre that are generally reachable by public transport. The growing biotechnology and innovation scene means that a lot of the world’s top companies have sites here, so you can get an internship just steps away. Despite what one might say about the winter weather, skiing and hockey more than makes up for it. I’m sure you can find your own place in Boston.
I chose to become a PhD student at MIT ORC because I was interested in solving important problems in an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment. This decision was definitely a significant step for me. In fact, what I have got from studying at MIT ORC is way beyond my expectations. The courses taught by knowledgeable faculty members have inspired me to approach problems from creative perspectives. The advisors at ORC can always give excellent suggestions that guide students through their research. Being challenged by the fast-paced PhD life at ORC has made me a much better researcher. Plenty of academic seminars are valuable opportunities to meet people from different backgrounds. It is true that PhD is hard, but pursuing it at MIT with talented classmates from all over the world has been one of the most exciting parts of my life.
I enjoy living in Cambridge. The beautiful views of the Charles River and the fresh air always put me in a great mood. Exploring the area with the warm company of friends and enjoying delicious food are perfect ways to slow down a bit and reduce stress. This is the best place where you can work hard to positively impact the world while enjoying your life!
Looking back, I could not think of another place that I would enjoy as much as the ORC to complete my PhD study. Personally, the ORC gave me access to a close-knit community of talented, caring and hard-working people. The peers and faculties not only support my aspirations and endeavors, but also motivate me to become a better person every day. Academically, the ORC provides unparalleled research opportunities. Here, you are challenged to understand the fundamentals of important problems and to create innovative solutions that can truly make impacts in the world. Close to many major firms and other research universities, the ORC will allow you to collaborate within and beyond the MIT campus. If you have ambitious ideas you would like to see into action, the ORC is definitely the place for you.
One advice for perspective students is to choose your advisor carefully. Besides academic research interests, think of someone who you can trust personally, a mentor whose core values align with yours. The style of their advising also plays a crucial part of your interaction with them: would you like to have someone more engaged, or someone more “hands-off”? Reach out to current or former students to find out.
After living in California for 8 years, I was ready to venture out to new exciting places, especially the East Coast. It was no surprise to me that I instantly fall in love with Boston as soon as I arrived. Around the Cambridge area, there are countless beautiful hiking destinations as well as natural parks, such as the Middlesex Fells Reservation and Boston Commons. When winter comes, you also have access to a wealth of skiing resorts and ice skating rinks close by as well. Overall, the people here are kind and sincere, and there are many fun activities to keep yourself busy.
When I was thinking about getting a PhD, the ORC stood out to me for its culture. The ORC is collaborative, friendly and supportive environment. For students who come here, the ORC becomes a second family of sorts. The co-directors and faculty look after the graduate students, with a clear focus on community, mentorship and development. Advisors are known for encouraging their students to become better researchers and helping them get the support and resources they need. The group of students at the ORC is one of the highlights of the department. There is a sincere friendship found among the students that manifests in academic collaborations, long-lasting relationships and a genuinely fun environment.
If I were to offer any tip for prospective students, it is that choosing your advisor is crucial to the experience you will have. One of the great things about the ORC is that it is very interdisciplinary with faculty working across a range of industries and applications. However, advisors don’t just differ in their research focus. There are also a variety of personalities, working styles, mentorship strengths and collaboration preferences. Talking with potential advisors, before, during and after the open house is very important. What is not always done but I would highly recommend, is reaching out to current students of the advisor. Talking with current students gives you a feel for what it is like to work with the advisor for a long time. Taking the time to find an advisor who matches you in what you are looking for and need will make a worlds difference in your experience as a graduate student!
The vibrant community and research opportunities sold me on attending the Operations Research Center for my PhD. From my first visit to the ORC as a prospective student, I have been impressed by the camaraderie and mentorship found throughout the center. There are always other students eager to give advice on courses, study together for midterms, or just catch up over lunch or a coffee break. Everyone comes from diverse nationalities, academic backgrounds, and industry experiences, but there is a shared passion for learning and tackling challenging problems. This fosters a dynamic and hard-working environment that makes me excited to go into the ORC every morning.
I was also drawn to the ORC's breadth of healthcare work, from personalized medicine to operational challenges. After working at a healthcare technology company for a year, I developed a passion for healthcare and decided to go back to school with a goal of applying Operations Research to this field. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to get involved in research from day one: in this first year, I have had the opportunity to interact with clinicians and healthcare researchers which has given me an interdisciplinary perspective. MIT also has an ideal location for medical work due to its proximity to major hospital systems and the biotech community.
Finally, as a native Bostonian, I am a huge fan of the area. There is a lot of (well-justified!) hometown spirit in this city, from its rich history to fantastic sports teams. It is small enough to feel like home quickly, but there are always new things to explore and discover as well. MIT’s Kendall Square location provides easy access to Boston and Cambridge, and it is also a beautiful area- nothing beats walking along the Charles River at the edge of campus in the fall. Between the student community, academic environment, and location, I could not be happier to have ended up in the Operations Research Center at MIT.